Former cast members of The Bachelor have backed a petition calling for better diversity and inclusion on the series.
The long-running series has only ever had one Black lead in its history, Rachel Lindsay, out of 40, with the cast members having been predominantly white.
A new petition – which has so far amassed over 50,000 signatures – has now called for the show to "reflect and honour the racial diversity" in the US both in front of and behind the camera.
Among the suggestions are casting a Black lead in season 25, having at least 35% of the contestants be Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), hiring a diversity consultant, issuing a public apology for enabling systemic racism, and demonstrating anti-racism efforts.
A number of former cast members have shared the petition, including Rachel Lindsay, Tyler Cameron, Seinne Fleming, Dustin Kendrick, Bibiana Julian, Jubilee Sharpe, Olivia Caridi, Onyeka Ehie, Alayah Benevidez, Marcus Grodd, Lauren Burnham, Mykenna Dorn and Marquel Martin.
"I knew that I wanted to be a trailblazer in this franchise to diversify the lead role, to diversify the contestants trying out and casted for the show, and to diversify the audience watching this show," she wrote. "Well, I am sad to say that after almost four years in this franchise, we still don't have the diversity that this show needs, and that our audience deserves.
"Yes, more diverse contestants do appear on the show now, but is the lead truly interested and open to dating outside of their race? I think that is evident by how far their 'journey' takes them during each season.
"It is a naive expectation to believe that leads will authentically start an interracial relationship for the first time on national television. The sad reality is that people of colour become placeholders as the token person of colour to add some flavour to the second half of the season."
Lindsay listed examples of where she had called out the show on diversity issues in the past, admitting: "Although I have been vocal on many issues, I still feel that I have not been loud enough on the deep-rooted, 18-year systemic problems in this franchise. You never want to bite the hand that feeds you, but you also do not want to be aiding and abetting problematic behaviour."
She added: "This is the reason that I have come to the conclusion that if changes are not made on the inside and outside of the franchise, I will dissociate myself from it. I am tired of asking for change and my requests have been ineffective. These changes have to extend beyond casting a lead of colour. The whole franchise needs a diversity makeover."
Among some of the changes she suggests are casting "leads that are truly interested in dating outside of their race", for the show to stop "making excuses" for lack of diversity and "rectify the problem", as well as diversifying producers to make contestants of colour feel more comfortable.
She has also called for the show to "make a statement acknowledging their systemic racism", citing among her examples creator Mike Fleiss claiming her season of the Bachelorette's lower ratings "revealed something about our fans".
Speaking of the show's diversity problem to Entertainment Weekly back in 2011, Fleiss also commented: "We always want to cast for ethnic diversity. It's just that for whatever reason, they don't come forward. I wish they would."
For more information on how you can support Black Lives Matter, please visit its official website or donate here. Readers can also donate to the UK anti-discrimination group Stand Up To Racism, and the Unite Families & Friends Campaign, which supports those affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody.
Digital Spy now has a newsletter – sign up to get it sent straight to your inbox.
Looking for more TV recommendations and discussion? Head over to our Facebook Group to see new picks every day, and chat with other readers about what they're watching right now.
You Might Also Like